The confiscating henchmen : The masquerade of ming embroidereduniform guard Liu Shouyou

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

Abstract

The story of how Embroidered-Uniform Guard confiscators defied the Ming Emperor Wanli (r. 1573-1620) to uphold their own particular view of justice is rich in detail, but has been virtually ignored in scholarship on Ming cultural history. This paper presents a case study of the Embroidered-Uniform Guard confiscator Liu Shouyou (c. 1540-1604) and his guardsmen, who risked their own lives in assisting the deposed grand secretary to illegally evade property confiscations from Wanli. What constituted the guards’ moral justification for abusing the law in this way, and what did this violation indicate about the relationship among the emperor, his former grand secretary, and confiscating guards? This paper complicates the negative historical portrayal of the guards as corrupt henchmen by probing the motivation of the Liu squad, who strove to find an equilibrium between obedience and ethics in capital society. Finally, this analysis opens a door to future studies on the intersection of art collecting and criminality at the late Ming court.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-45
Number of pages22
JournalMing studies
Volume2015
Issue number72
Early online date9 Oct 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

obedience
cultural history
Criminality
justice
moral philosophy
art
Law
Society
Masquerade
Ming

Bibliographical note

Author's research at Stanford University supported by Stanford Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellowship and Mellon Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.

Keywords

  • Embroidered-uniform guard
  • Emperor wanli
  • Grand secretary
  • Liu shouyou
  • Property confiscation

Cite this

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title = "The confiscating henchmen : The masquerade of ming embroidereduniform guard Liu Shouyou",
abstract = "The story of how Embroidered-Uniform Guard confiscators defied the Ming Emperor Wanli (r. 1573-1620) to uphold their own particular view of justice is rich in detail, but has been virtually ignored in scholarship on Ming cultural history. This paper presents a case study of the Embroidered-Uniform Guard confiscator Liu Shouyou (c. 1540-1604) and his guardsmen, who risked their own lives in assisting the deposed grand secretary to illegally evade property confiscations from Wanli. What constituted the guards’ moral justification for abusing the law in this way, and what did this violation indicate about the relationship among the emperor, his former grand secretary, and confiscating guards? This paper complicates the negative historical portrayal of the guards as corrupt henchmen by probing the motivation of the Liu squad, who strove to find an equilibrium between obedience and ethics in capital society. Finally, this analysis opens a door to future studies on the intersection of art collecting and criminality at the late Ming court.",
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The confiscating henchmen : The masquerade of ming embroidereduniform guard Liu Shouyou. / PANG, Huiping.

In: Ming studies, Vol. 2015, No. 72, 11.2015, p. 24-45.

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)

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